The one species Congress' new animal caucus is truly neglecting, and 5 ways it can help.

As the health care debate continues to rage, conflict ramps up in Syria, and tensions escalate in North Korea, a new congressional caucus is finally taking a bold, bipartisan stand on an issue of tremendous urgency.

USA Today reported that members of both parties have decided to cast politics aside and come together to support the heretofore controversial cause of being nicer to puppies, kittens, and ponies.  

Awwwwwwww. Photo via iStock.


"Members of Congress are realizing that protecting animals is not just the right thing to do, it's also developing to become potent politically," Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) told the paper.

Among the bipartisan bills being considered by the newly formed Congressional Animal Protection Caucus: a bill that bans most private possession of big cats (lions, tigers, etc.), one that bans the sale of dogs and cats for human consumption, and one that bans the testing of cosmetics on rabbits, mice, and other animals.  

These are all good ideas, and people certainly love animals, making the issues likely political winners.

Still, there's one animal that didn't make the group's list — a species that Congress can't seem to agree needs protecting:

Human beings.

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images.

There are over 320 million human beings in the United States and over 7 billion in the world. Many live in unimaginable conditions, struggling to find food, maintain shelter, and survive in hostile environments. For a caucus ostensibly devoted to animal welfare, leaving this species off its list seems an incredible oversight.

Here are a few ways the caucus could add the large primate to its agenda.

1. A bill that would make it easier for doctors to treat human beings when they're sick.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Over 28 million human beings in the United States don't have health insurance, without which many of the omnivorous great apes fall ill and die. What's more, Congress recently considered legislation that would have taken it away from 24 million more of them.

Perhaps the caucus can look into this.

2. A bill to help feed human beings who have trouble feeding themselves.

Photo by Gregg Newton/Getty Images.

Last year, members of Congress proposed slashing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka food stamps), which provides nutrition to members of the bipedal hominid species who might otherwise go hungry.

If the bipartisan group is truly invested in easing the suffering of creatures large and small, expanding, rather than contracting, the species' access to sources of food is a great place to start.

3. A bill that would allow human females to access reproductive medical care.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

On April 13, 2017, President Trump signed a bill allowing states to deny funds to organizations that treat diseases specific to human beings with uteri and cervixes and help them decide whether and when to reproduce.

The caucus might want to consider making it easier for these anthropoid females to not get cancer and make these decisions for themselves, which could ultimately boost their survival rate.

4. A bill that prevents law enforcement officials from abusing human beings.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images.

In the last several years, dozens of videos depicting the graphic abuse of human beings by police officers have gone viral. In response, the Justice Department and local police departments launched a series of internal reviews — which Attorney General Jeff Sessions is considering suspending, claiming they "reduce morale."

If the caucus is indeed considering a national animal cruelty bill, they should at least add humans to the list of species whose abuse will be penalized, no matter the status or uniform of the person doing the abusing.  

5. A bill that would let humans move from a country where they're being killed in large numbers by other humans to one where they're safe.

Photo by Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images.

Six years ago, the Syrian government began exterminating members of the species with bombs and poison gas, sending millions stampeding in the direction of the border. Yet much of the world remains surprisingly unconcerned about the hordes of human beings fleeing certain death. In fact, President Trump recently signed an executive order preventing them from settling in the United States.

The caucus should consider passing some sort of legislation that not only overturns this order, but brings more members of the threatened species here to live in safety.

Protecting human beings isn't as much of a slam dunk political winner as, say, laws that require feeding horses aged ribeye and giving every puppy a flower crown.

But hey, as long as Congress is saving animals, might as well give it a shot!

Both together! Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Stagecoach.

'Cause unlike dogs, cats, hyenas, cockatiels, and white Bengal tigers, human beings vote.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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